Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Cappella: Everywhere and nowhere.


The New York Times story (see link below) inspired a slew of e-mails from a cappella singers past and present. Perhaps my favorite came from Andrea Sheehan, a proud alum of a “feminist a cappella group” from Mt. Holyoke called—wait for it—Nice Shoes. What does a feminist a cappella group sing? Helen Reddy covers, maybe? Uh, who cares! They’re a feminist a cappella group. That’s awesome!

For the uninitiated: Yes, there are a cappella groups for every demographic. A shout out to Cornell’s Jewish a cappella group, the Chai Notes!

But this avalanche of e-mails got me thinking about something Jonathan Coulton said when I interviewed him for the Times piece. Coulton is an alum of the Whiffenpoofs, an excellent musician in his own right, and the man behind a very special acoustic version of “Baby Got Back.”(YouTube it, kids. I ain’t got time to link to everything.) Coulton made a great point in our phone call, saying, “A cappella is at once everywhere and nowhere.” He was speaking to the almost Zelig-like (or Forrest Gump-like) nature of a cappella. At first glance, maybe this genre seems obscure. Until you realize it’s been everywhere.

There are a cappella jokes in Young Frankenstein on Broadway and on NBC’s 30 Rock. The Whiffenpoofs appeared on Saturday Night Live years ago, and the producers ran each kid’s SAT score across the bottom of the screen in a CNN-type crawl.

Want something more historic? Gordon Bloom, an alum of the Harvard Krokodiloes and the man who invented the Kroks international summer tour, sent me this link, to a piece from the Harvard Gazette about Leonard Bernstein (yes, that Leonard Bernstein) and his love affair with the Kroks.

Check it out here.

Perhaps there is change in the air. Perhaps I should re-title this post as, A cappella: Everywhere and (exceedingly less) nowhere.


Credit line: The letter posted above courtesy of Gordon Bloom and the Kroks.

1 comment:

Allyse said...

Hi, I'm a current Nice Shoe who just found this post. Thanks for the mention!

We interpret feminism broadly--our official statement is "we sing empowering songs that promote human rights." We sing songs by the Black Eyed Peas, Sarah McLachlan, Michael Jackson, Dar Williams, Dispatch...